There’s a great chapter in the Book of Mormon that deals a lot with olive trees and branches and the house of Israel. In it, Jacob quotes Zenos, an ancient biblical prophet who doesn’t actually appear in the Bible because his writings were lost.
In the book of Jacob, chapter 5, Zenos gives an allegory about a gardener in his olive tree grove, in his vineyard. You should go read it for your self, but to summarize in a completely inadequate way:
The Lord of the Vineyard, or the gardener goes around looking at his olive trees. Some of them have good fruit. Some have wild (bad) fruit.
So, he takes some of the branches of the good trees, cutting the trunk-end of the branches into thin wedges, exposing the green vulnerable insides of the branch. Then, he cuts notches in bad trees and pushes the good branches into the wild (bad) trees. This process is called grafting.
He goes around his vineyard, grafting good branches into wild (bad) trees and wild (bad) branches into good trees. Lots of time passes. He repeats the process several times, each time with meticulous and whole-hearted effort but with varied degrees of success.
In the end, he gathers all of the good fruit into his house and casts all of the bad fruit, and the rest of the vineyard into the fire.
Usually, we relate this parable or allegory to the grand history of the peoples of Earth and their God. We talk about the House of Israel, and God’s patterns of scattering and gathering in the holy scriptures.
But lately, it has taken on some more personal meaning.
This coming Wednesday (September 28th, 2016), I’ll receive a graft. A surgeon will cut a notch in my ankle, remove the wild (bad) bone and cartilage, and insert fresh, new, foreign bone in the hopes that my ankle will accept this graft and grow to be stronger than it currently is. (Sidenote: I use the phrase “in the hopes that” as a literary device. My ankle has a very low possibility of not accepting the graft. It’s nothing serious.)
Grafting hurts. The Lord of the vineyard had to damage living branches in order to move them to a new area. You have to expose the inner greens of the branches or they won’t grow into their new trunk. They have to become incredibly vulnerable.
And, once the branch is a part of its new tree, it has to learn to deal with all of the changes and new challenges. Maybe it doesn’t get as much sunlight as it used to get. Maybe it’s a young millennial branch that gets re-positioned in a desert, among the Gen X branches and mere saplings and it misses all of its friends. Maybe it doesn’t take well immediately. Maybe it doesn’t bear fruit for years. Maybe it even develops a lactose intolerance. (Another Sidenote: I’ve developed a lactose intolerance since I was in Colombia on my mission)
I used to tell myself during my mission that I was the one in the tropical paradise, not my family, or friends, or anyone else. I usually couldn’t bring myself to believe it. How could freedom and free time and access to everything and a good job and good food not be more fun than being a missionary stuck in a sticky humid hot haze.
Deep down I knew that what I was telling myself was true: I was really the one in the best situation. Toward the end I suppose I began to appreciate that fact.
But no matter what you could have told me then could help me to understand what I know now. The mission is the best life. I didn’t cry when I boarded the plane to leave Colombia. But I cry now when I think about it. I was cut out of the wild (good) part of the vineyard and reinstated back here in Las Vegas. The desert.
We get grafted in and grafted out. We usually don’t like it when it happens. Sometimes it takes 6 months or more to heal (Last Sidenote: My surgery will take 6 months to heal)
But in the end, we need to understand that the Lord of the Vineyard is a good man. He is doing what he is doing because He knows us better than we can comprehend and because he loves us. We do not love God because he blesses us. Praying to Him is not a “Special Benefits from God” subscription payment.
We love God because He is our Father. He loves us because we are His children. He wants us to be happy. We cannot be eternally happy without enduring difficult things. Any other view of religious zeal without this understanding is fruitless.
But the Art of Godly Grafting is not.
(Last Last sidenote: I’ll be returning to BYU in January to continue my studies while my ankle heals)